Mayoral candidate and Solihull MP make pledge to Greenbelt protection - The Solihull Observer

Mayoral candidate and Solihull MP make pledge to Greenbelt protection

Solihull Editorial 4th Mar, 2017   0

WEST Midlands Mayoral candidate Andy Street has made a pledge – and devised a plan – to protect Solihull’s Greenbelt from residential housing development if he wins the crucial vote on May 4.

Former John Lewis boss Mr Street, who is Conservative candidate in the election, has pledged to seek to avoid a similar situation to that seen at neighbouring Sutton Coldfield, where 6,000 new homes are being built on fields near the town, despite huge opposition locally.

And he has the support of Solihull MP Julian Knight – for his plan and for his Mayoral campaign.

The area covered by the West Midlands Combined Authority – which would be led by the first elected Mayor – requires some 165,000 new homes over the next 15 years to keep up with demand.

To help protect the Greenbelt, Andy is proposing a ‘brownfield first’ policy, which would ensure all other options are explored first.

He said: “How can it be right that Greenbelt in places like Sutton Coldfield and other parts of the West Midlands is being used for housing at a time when right across the region there are huge pieces of brownfield land that have laid untouched for decades?

“There are at least 1,600 hectares of brownfields sites in the West Midlands, which is about the size of 2,000 football pitches.

“This is why as Mayor I will commit to a ‘brownfield first’ policy.

“I pledge to make this a reality in the first case by using the WMCA’s £200m to get brownfield land ready for housebuilding and commercial use.

“We can’t say that Greenbelt can be protected permanently. But before we even think about using it for housing, we need to exhaust every other avenue.

“And there are plenty of other avenues.”

Mr Street believes brownfield sites need to be put back into use and quickly – and that this can be done by securing the funding necessary to reclaim lands that may be contaminated.

He also believes attentions need to be turned to the 10,000 homes in the region that are currently unoccupied.

He added: “We need to think harder also about the density of our housing, particularly in the towns and cities where the essential infrastructure already exists.

“And we need to look at change of use of some buildings – for example, we need to look at how we can make empty office blocks available for residential.

“We need to work with neighbouring authorities – many of whom have land they are looking to develop for housing – to ensure we can make effective use of it.

“Yes, the housing challenge in our region is an important one.

“But people value our Greenbelt and it’s an important part of our quality of life.

“That’s why I am committing here and now to doing everything we can to protect it, an outcome which will only be possible through a coordinated approach across the region.”

Borough MP Julian Knight has given his support to the Greenbelt-protecting proposal by Mr Street.

Speaking exclusively to The Observer he said: “Local residents have expressed concerns to me about the impact of new developments on our local environment, so I’m very pleased to see Andy Street taking such a bold initiative to make sure that we explore every option before building on Greenbelt land.

“I’ve spoken up in favour of this proposal in Parliament, and I’m very pleased that David Lidington, the Leader of the House of Commons, agrees that we must prioritise brownfield sites, regenerating ex-industrial areas before we start developing the countryside.

“It’s vitally important that the West Midlands gets the homes it needs – but Solihull Council must make sure that we don’t take shortcuts.

“Environmental protections, proper flood defences, and access to green space must be protected.

“This clear thinking is just more evidence that Andy Street is by far the best-qualified candidate for the job, and I hope that voters will lend him their support in May.”

Many Solihull residents have written to Julian to express their concerns about local proposals for Greenbelt developments, particularly plans to build 600 homes in so-called ‘allocation 13’ in Shirley.

Constituents fear this will not only further reduce access to green spaces after the development of the Parkgate retail complex, but also place an unsustainable burden on local infrastructure.


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